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1ST LEAD Macron rival under fire over leaked barbs at friends and foes By Pól Ó Grádaigh, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Paris (dpa) - The head of France‘s main opposition party was under fire on Tuesday after he described lawmakers supporting President Emmanuel Macron as "puppets" in leaked recordings and made barbed remarks about politicians across the political spectrum.

In comments to students at a business school in Lyon, conservative leader Laurent Wauquiez said that the tight discipline of Macron‘s centrist La Republique en Marche party meant that there was "a total dictatorship" in France.

"Have you seen the puppets of En Marche?" Wauquiez, who was elected leader of the right-wing Les Republicains in December, said in the comments, broadcast by TMC television late Monday.

"They are all standing to attention, they all have to vote the same way. If they step even a tiny bit out of line, they get bopped on the head."

Parliament speaker Francois de Rugy, a Macron ally, said Wauquiez‘s remarks were "insulting to our republic" and to those living under "real totalitarian regimes."

"If he still considers himself a leader of a democratic party, then he ought to defend our parliamentary democracy," de Rugy said.

In an earlier leak, broadcast on Friday, Wauquiez took aim at former conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy, and mocked Macron and the Instagram account of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Wauquiez has been criticized by more liberal party colleagues who accuse him of steering the party to hard-right positions in an attempt to win votes from Marine Le Pen‘s far-right National Front, something he denies.

He hit back on Tuesday evening, painting himself as a plain speaker and saying that he thought his use of the term "puppet" for pro-Macron lawmakers had been "very measured."

"I think that there is a need for a right wing that stands up for its ideas, and I think that there is a need for a right wing that does not apologize," he told broadcaster BFMTV.

But he also said he would take legal action against the journalist who broadcast the leak, whom he accused of "thuggish methods."

His only regret, he said, was having claimed that Sarkozy, the former leader of Les Republicains, had had his own ministers‘ phones tapped, and he said he had apologized to the ex-president for that.

Macron, asked about Wauquiez‘s comments during a public engagement earlier in the day, took a lofty view.

They left him unmoved "because he is not inspiring," the president said. "As for me, I‘m working. I have better things to do."


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